After a great night’s sleep in Hotel Amfiteatar and a fun filled day of exploring Pula, Croatia it was time to head back north. Fun was over. JIt was time to get back to work. I had to be in Prague by Tuesday for a big conference, so we had to start heading that way and we had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. It’s a shame, with a few more days, we would have liked to have visited Rijeka, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik (Croatia) and who knows maybe even Montenegro. But, duty calls. We definitely want to make it back to Croatia, to check out what the rest of the country has to offer and certainly long for the chance to see more of Slovenia again, breathtaking views and charming people!
The bad news…we had to head north, the good news, this venture led through four countries in one drive and towards Villach, Austria to return the rental car. It also put us within a 1.5 hour proximity to one of the most awe inspiring drives in the world, the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse (Alpine Pass). Ah yes, another unknown and quite unplanned adventure awaiting the Weatherly Travels Tribe.
So, the evening before in Pula, Cierra aptly reminded me of the beautiful drive in Austria called the Grossglocker Haochalpenstrasse (Grossglockner for short) that wasn’t too far from Vilach. We had a short discussion that included me asking how far it was because from what I remember of its place on the map a few weeks earlier, it was buried in the Austrian Alps and close to Salzburg, not quite near Vienna, where we needed to get to in order to be in a decent place to make Prague by Tuesday. My beautiful wife told me it was only a 3 hour drive per Google map and because we didn’t have GPS in Croatia, she already saved the directions on her phone via the hotel wifi. O.K., seems like it would be way more than that, I did in fact just drive from Austria to Slovenia, around Italy and down the Croatian peninsula to Pula, but hey, you have to trust Google maps right…wrong!!
About an hour into the drive and nearing the Slovenia border, we finally started to get GPS back. Yep, 3.5 more hours to go, making the drive 4.5 (in reality almost nearly 5 hours). Well we were committed now weren’t we. After a few more stamps in the passports both leaving Croatia and entering Slovenia, high fives from the kids in the back seats we were headed through Slovenia and into Italy, ironically enough back through Trieste and Udine once again. Now this is where it gets interesting. As we made our way through the Italian Alps, we started to ascend a mountain(s) and gained so much altitude at one point on twisty roads that we were out of satellite range on GPS. Shouldn’t the signal be getting better the closer we get to the satellite. Anyway, while we did have GPS I was amazed to look at the screen as it looked like to create a road, someone just threw spaghetti on the ground, paved it and called it a day. It was back and forth, back and forth, up and up and up and up. I knew it was getting crazy when at one point, I saw a rock quary way high up on the mountain and was just amazed that humans could cut stone that high in the mountain. As we got closer to the quary, and then above it, and then further and further and further away from it (above it mind you), I was wishing for the view from below once again. I’m not scared of heights at all mind you and consider myself a pretty good driver, but I was white knuckles at the end. It was pretty intense. And this wasn’t even the Grossglocker yet….good grief!
We finally made it to the crest of the mountain and directly at the summit, crossed the Italian/Austrian line and made our way now back down the mountain(s) into the Austrian valley below. We found a cute little place and an adult beverage to calm our nerves while the kids played in a parent friendly playground. After getting a bit of liquid courage back in our veins we proceeded on to Lienz, Austria…the beginning of the Grossglockner. This drive, just as tough, but a little bit more fun had breathtaking vistas, a themed playground for children with a slide cut into a mountain and a zipline and ended in an actual glacier!!! This day started at a beach in Croatia and ended on a glacier in the Austrian Alps….are you kidding me…living in a dreamworld. But as this post started, weekend is over, back to reality and work.
Tomorrow to Vienna and then on to Prague!